Learn why buying natural, non-toxic products is important for your health and the steps you can take to transition to safer products for your home & life.
Imagine for a second the home you live in. Take a little mental tour around – through the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the bathrooms and bedrooms. Look in the cupboards, open the drawers, check out the furniture and the knick-knacks. Our homes are both the heart and the headquarters of our lives. We fill them with the essentials for living and also the fun stuff that makes life worth living. It all adds up to a lot of stuff.
Sadly, a lot of the stuff we fill our homes with is toxic.
Wait, what? Isn’t the government protecting us by regulating the products we buy? Um, no, not to the extent we think they are. Regulations for chemicals used in products sold in the United States have a lot (and I mean a lot!) of room for improvement. Because of weak regulations, our beloved homes where we eat, sleep and raise our families, are filled with products that could be harming our health.
4 Reasons to Make The Switch to Non-Toxic Products
OK so should we all start living off the grid – growing our own food and never enter a Target store again? Obviously that’s not a realistic solution. The good news is that the market is full of safe, natural and non-toxic products! What you need to do is get educated about potential toxins in your home and understand how to find the safer options that exist. This doesn’t have to happen all at once but it is important to know that as a consumer, you have a choice. By voting with your dollar you are also signalling to the market the need for safer, natural products – and that’s a win for everyone!
Over the course of many years, I have transitioned to a mostly natural, non-toxic lifestyle with my two kids and husband. We’re not perfect – far from it. In fact I call my approach the “practically green” approach and I even wrote a book about it! We have replaced things slowly, I buy what’s practical given time and money constraints (we all have them!) and I try not to sweat the small stuff.
I hope this post will help guide and inspire you in your transition to natural & non-toxic products! If you are looking for specific product recommendations, check out my Mom-Tested Non-Toxic Product Guides and my Mindful Momma Marketplace!
1.) Non-Toxic Products = Cleaner Air in Your Home
Fact: According to the EPA, the typical American home has chemical contamination levels 2 to 5 times greater than outdoor air. As a work-from-home mom and as someone who lives in a climate with real winter (i.e. the windows are closed for almost half the year), I take that statistic to heart. Much of that pollution comes from products we buy and use in our homes.
Some of the ways household products pollute the air in our homes:
- Household cleaning products – Once you spray them, noxious fumes remain in the air and nasty chemicals settle into carpets, land on furniture and surfaces where people eat and children play. Ironic right – since the chemicals we are using to “clean” are actually polluting the air in our homes. (Find my non-toxic cleaning spray recommendations here.)
- Air fresheners – Sprays, plug-ins and candles made with artificial fragrances meant to freshen the air are actually harmful to breathe.
- Off-gassing – Chemicals found in furniture, mattresses, carpet and paint evaporate or off-gas into the surrounding air. These chemicals also settle into dust in our homes, where we continue to stir them up and breathe them.
Here’s what you can do for cleaner air:
Baby steps: Begin by taking a look at your cleaning products. Replace the worst offenders right away (most toilet, drain & oven cleaners are very toxic), and slowly switch out the rest as they run out. Use my post on the best green cleaning brands as a guide and dabble in some DIY cleaning products too! Start implementing these FREE ways to make your home healthier as soon as possible – hey they’re free!
Bigger steps: When it’s time to buy new furniture make thoughtful, safer choices. Avoid furniture made with chemical flame retardants or particle board and use my guide to non-toxic mattress brands when shopping for a new mattress. When remodeling, choose zero-VOC paint and avoid carpet sprayed with stain or water-repellent chemicals.
2.) Non-Toxic Products are Better for Your Skin
It can be hard to resist the pretty packages, intriguing labels and enticing promises found on beauty and personal care products. But underneath the claims are some pretty scary chemicals linked to endocrine (hormone) disruption, allergies and even cancer. That’s because the United States has not banned or restricted very many chemicals used in personal care products (unlike the European Union, which has done a much better job).
The beauty products we use don’t just coat our skin, they get into it. Toxic chemicals are easily absorbed through the skin and can even find their way into the bloodstream. More health-protective legislation is needed but meanwhile, it’s a bit like the wild west out there.
Just a few examples of personal care products with problems (believe me, there are many more):
- Shampoo – May be contaminated with 1,4 Dioxane, a probable human carcinogen (look for ingredients with “eth” in the name like laureth). (Find my non-toxic shampoo recommendations here)
- Deodorant – Made with hormone disrupting chemicals like parabens and phthalates. (Find my non-toxic deodorant recommendations here.)
- Lipstick – Those bright colors often come from toxic heavy metals like lead, chromium, cadmium, aluminum, manganese and nickel. (Find my non-toxic lipstick recommendations here.)
- Nail polish – Most brands use a toxic trio of chemicals including formaldehyde, touline and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), as well as other harmful ingredients. (Find my non-toxic nail polish recommendations here.)
Here’s what you can do for better beauty:
Baby steps: Start by replacing the beauty products you use most like shampoo and deodorant, as well as the most toxic products like nail polish and hair color. Read this post to learn how to identify non-toxic beauty and personal care products, so you can make the safest choices.
Bigger steps: Over time, figure out replacements for your favorite conventional beauty products – the ones you thought you could never get rid of. You may have to test out a few different mascaras for instance, to find a non-toxic mascara that you love (I personally love Mineral Fusion Lengthening Mascara, Lily Lolo Mascara & Beautycounter Lengthening Mascara!)
RELATED: Natural Living Basics: Easy changes for a more natural and eco-friendly lifestyle
3.) Non-Toxic Food is More Nutritious
Chemicals find their way into the food we eat both directly (added artificial ingredients) and indirectly (pesticides sprayed on crops and even through product packaging). In order to limit chemicals in the food you eat you’ll need to become a label-reader and a knowledgeable consumer.
Some of the ways toxins get into our food:
- Pesticides, herbicides & hormones – Pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate leach into the food we eat and no amount of washing can completely get rid of it. Hormones and antibiotics used on animals end up in the meat we eat.
- Artificial ingredients – Processed food is chock full of strange-sounding ingredients cooked up in a chemistry lab. Our government says they are safe but studies show links to cancer, endocrine disruption and more.
- Product packaging – You might not immediately think of packaging as a culprit but it’s a hideout for BPA in canned foods and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in microwave popcorn and fast food packaging.
Here’s what you can do for healthier food:
Baby steps: Buy organic produce as often as possible using the EWG’s Dirty Dozen as a guide. Look for the USDA Organic and nonGMO Project seal to guide you toward better food choices (although keep in mind that organic junk food is still junk food). (Here’s a list of healthier organic snacks for you to choose from!)
Bigger steps: Educate yourself about the worst food additives and start reading labels to find them. Next, take a look through your pantry, fridge and freezer and give your food supplies a good spring cleaning. Is there anything you can live without? Anything you can replace? (Here’s a list of my favorite healthy pantry staples from Thrive Market.) Never stop educating yourself about healthy food – it’s a huge topic! (The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has many super helpful food-related resources.)
4.) Non-Toxic Products are Better for the Environment
Due to lax regulations, a wide variety of planet-damaging chemicals are used in household products we use every day. Think of all those chemicals in our cleaning and personal care products swirling down the drain, or all the things we send to the landfill in a given year. Where do those chemicals end up? Good question! Many of them are persistent organic chemicals (POPs) that are the opposite of biodegradable, meaning they never go away.
Some of the ways chemicals in products are wrecking the environment:
- Drinking water – Chemicals work their way down drains and into our drinking water sources. Even though the water is treated, traces of many chemicals remain and – you guessed it – our government isn’t doing the best job of regulating our water sources. (Read what the EWG has to say about tap water and check on the water in your zip code.)
- Marine life – Chemicals cause deformities in fish and other marine life. Algae build-up causes dead zones in making it difficult for marine life to survive.
- Farming – Conventional farming involves tons of pesticides and herbicides that deplete the soil of nutrients and leach into waterways.
- Landfills – Gasses from landfills contribute to global warming and chemicals leaching out of landfills pollute land and make their way into water sources.
Here’s what you can do to help the environment:
Baby steps: Switch to non-toxic laundry detergent and dishwasher soap. Stop using chemical-coated dryer sheets (here are some eco-friendly dryer sheet alternatives). Switch to natural shampoo and other personal care products. Buy organic food as often as possible.
Bigger steps: Replace non-stick cookware with eco-friendly cookware alternatives. Replace disposable products with reusable products as much as possible (preferable plastic-free.) Purchase organic cotton clothing and non-toxic bedding and mattresses made with natural materials. Buy less stuff in general.
Whew! That was a very long post – but super important! If you want to keep learning about this topic you are in the right place! Visit my Get Started page for links to lots of helpful blog posts and please sign up for email list – it’s the best way to keep up with everything I have to offer on Mindful Momma!